History Girls

Anna Atkins, original name Anna Children (born March 16, 1799, Tonbridge, Kent, Eng.—died June 9, 1871, Halstead Place, Kent), English photographer noted for her early use of photography for scientific purposes.

Anna Children, whose mother died soon after she was born, was involved from an early age in the scientific activities that occupied her father, John George Children. A respected scientist, he was secretary of the Royal Society and was associated with the British Museum.

While in her early 20s, Atkins made drawings for her father’s translation of Jean-Baptiste de Monet Lamarck’s Genera of Shells (1823), but her prime interest lay in the study of botany. She married John Pelly Atkins in 1825. Through her father’s association with Royal Society members William Henry Fox Talbot and the astronomer and chemist Sir John Herschel, Atkins learned of the photographic process then being invented.

Read More:womenshistorymagazine.com



Courtly love is epitomized by the idea of the lover’s unworthiness, the educative and ennobling effects of love, the need for secrecy, the idealization of the woman, and the pain that the lover feels.

Often the love is characterized as hopeless: the lady is stony-hearted or far away. Courtly love was predominantly an institution of serving male interests: the acquisition of honor and status. 

Yet women were necessarily implicated in the tradition. The rhetoric and practices of courtly love did nothing to raise the status of women in the regions where courtly love flourished. If idealization of the feminine became culturally widespread, there were no tangible benefits to actual women in terms of individual autonomy.

The ideology of courtly love was evolved by men intent on working out their own ideas of what women should be, ideologies which fulfilled their own emotional needs and desires.


Although the great majority of the female population were married at some point in their lives, the writings by women which survive are overwhelmingly those monastic women, who have never been, or were no longer, married. Yet the universality of marriage in one form or another is such that there are many texts which serve to flesh out a conception of the changing institution emerging in law codes and theological writing throughout the period.

Marriage customs varied by region and marriage patterns were modified by class. At the most general level marriage is a social mechanism designed to regulate the distribution of women between male members of society and to formalize the links between a man and his offspring. In western Europe men have tended to have only one wife at a time: serial monogamy.

In early medieval Europe divorce seems to have been relatively easy to obtain. A declaration before witnesses that a husband or wife was divorcing his or her spouse was all that was necessary. However, by the tenth century, marriage had changed from an essentially private arrangement between a man and a woman and their respective families, into a Christian and lifelong monogamous partnership.

The wife had to have useful kindred to cement political alliances, be able to provide sons and heirs in sufficient numbers to ensure inheritance, and, increasingly, to be a companion to her husband.


Medieval medical writers and natural philosophers, as opposed to theologians, viewed sex as necessary to both men and women. Without a regular outlet for sexual desire both sexes were likely to become ill. Male seed, and the female equivalent which many writers believed to exist and be discharged by the woman during orgasm, had to be eliminated from the body periodically, just as other discharges such as phlegm, saliva, etc.

Thus, sexual pleasure of the woman was regarded as a precondition of conception. Without orgasm, it was thought, ejaculation of the ‘female seed’ would not occur and conception could not take place. Women were then expected to take pleasure in sex. It was commonplace in writing that women were naturally more lustful and voracious in their sexual appetites than men, and that they could easily exhaust and destroy their husbands’ with their relentlessness.

Source: uiweb.uidaho.edu
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Women’s History Magazine

During the Second World War, nearly a million women fought alongside their male counterparts and in October 1941, women’s aviation regiments began to be formed. Marina Raskova, already an ace pilot and member of the ‘People’s Defence Committee’, was allowed to organised three female aviation groups authorised by the Soviet high command. They were the 586 IAP (Fighter Aviation Regiment), the 587 BAP (Bomber Aviation Regiment) and the 588 NBAP (Night Bomber Aviation Regiment).

After being accepted to the training program, the young women underwent a rigorous six month flying and navigation course, fitting in to that time an amount of training that would normally take around a year and a half. In September 1942, Valerya Khomyakova of the 586 IAP’s or ‘Fighter Aviation Regiment’ became the first female Soviet pilot to shoot down an enemy aircraft at night when she downed a Ju 99.

A month later, the 586 IAP assisted in Operation Saturn and Uranus, which was successful in eliminating the German 6th Army at Stalingrad, after which, they were given the task of defending some important military logistical facilities and strategic locations. In 1944, the unit took part in the Soviet offensive in Hungry fighting with Yak-9 fighters and they finished the war on one of the captured airfields in Austria.

The 588 NBAP unit or ‘Night Bomber Aviation Regiment’ arrived combat ready in the Ukraine on the 23rd May 1942. They quickly earned the respect and fear of their enemies being given the nick name ‘night witches’. The decorated German Commander of II. /JG 52, Hauptmann Johannes Steinhoff, wrote of the 588 NBAP’s;

“We simply couldn’t grasp that the Soviet airmen that caused us the greatest trouble were in fact WOMEN. These women feared nothing. They came night after night in their very slow biplanes, and for some periods they wouldn’t give us any sleep at all.”

On 25th October 1942, a bomb strike by the 588 NBAP set alight a fuel depot at Armavir airfield. The fire spread and destroyed all but one of the planes on the airfield, leading to the quick withdrawal of the German fighters situated there. In January the following year, the regiments achievements were acknowledged and it was given the new title of 46th Taman’ Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment.

It was the most highly decorated regiment in the whole Soviet Air Force, with twenty-three of its pilots being awarded with the Gold Star of Hero of the Soviet Union, with a former navigator of the regiment becoming the twenty-forth to receive the award in 1995.

Marina Raskova took command of the third regiment herself, the 587th BAP or (Bomber Aviation Regiment). The regiment finished its training on 22nd November 1942 and was moved to the Stalingrad front line. After helping to liberate the town of Borisov, the unit became known as the 125th “M. M. Raskova” Borisov Guards Dive Bomber Aviation Regiment.

In one celebrated incident involving a pilot from the unit, Mariya Dolina flying a Pe-2 bomber, managed to shoot down two enemy plains at the same time. The regiment finished war operations in May 1943 after flying a total of 1134 combat missions dropping 980 tons of bombs in the process. A tribute made to the women of the unit by the Free-French pilots of the “Normandie-Niemen” Fighter Regiment who often fought along side them stated;

“Even if it were possible to gather and place at your feet all the flowers on earth, this would not constitute sufficient tribute to your valour.”

The 587 BAP and the 588 NBAP were involved in the fighting in the Kuban area of Southern Russia where they came up against some of the best fighter pilots the German air force had to offer including Erich Harmann of the famous JG 54 fighter group, who was the highest ranked fighter ace in the world with 352 confirmed combat kills.

Throughout the war, the Soviet female fighter pilots were involved in some of the heaviest aerial combat operations in history. They earned the fear and respect of enemy combatants and were often highly decorated for their efforts by their country.

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{June 13, 2010}   The History of the Bikini

Although the word ‘bikini’ has only been in existence since 1946, the two piece swim-suit that it represents has been around much longer, since around 1600 BC. Minoan wall paintings have been discovered in recent decades showing images of women involved in gymnastic exercises wearing skimpy two piece costumes that look a lot like modern day bikinis.

The Romans have long been known to have worn similar out-fits based on depictions on mosaics and murals. The Villa Romana del Casale, situated about three and a half miles from the town of Piazza Amerina in Sicily and built around 330 AD has a well-preserved mosaic, entitled “Coronation of the Winner”.

It features trim young women wearing bikini like garments exercising with balls, discus, and hand weights and the winner is holding a palm leaf and a crown of roses (shown above).

In modern times, the two-piece swimsuit made its first appearance in the summer of 1946, designed by Jacques Heim, it was displayed in a beach shop in France. He named his creation ‘The Atome’, after the Atom bomb, and advertised all over Cannes beaches that the world’s smallest bathing suit was now available to buy.

Three week after the ‘Atome’ was released, Louis Reard engineer turned swimsuit designer, brought out a similar swimsuit which he sold along the French Riviera. Reard named his creation the ‘Bikini’ after a small island in the South Pacific where the atomic bomb was being tested. Like the ‘Atome’, it was made up of two small pieces of cloth and for the first time in the modern era, women were publicly revealing their backs and navels.

A year after it was released in France, Reard’s bikini was released in America causing an amount of curiosity but very little in the way of sales and was even outlawed in some states as a result of its scantiness.

For the next twenty years, the bikini was little more than a side show in the fashion industry but by the late 1960s, the ‘Sexual Revolution’ took hold in America and the rest of the western world and the tiny swimsuit became a success. Today, the bikini is world famous and by far the most popular form of swimwear for women worldwide and is an $811 million industry in America alone.

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Women’s History Magazine

Women’s Rights and Economic Development

If women in developing countries are given control over their resources and given credit for the work they do, they will not need the security that having so many children brings. Instead they will have a credible social status and control over their education, employment, and family size.

When women have an equal share in earnings, independence, and freedom, they can live peacefully with men and will have fewer children by choice without being limited directly in their reproduction rates. Finally, the children they do have will hopefully be formally educated so that they too will have choices in their life and will not be restricted by their social status.

This type of change will not only require a change in the status of women, but also in the economic development of these countries. If the economy is given the opportunity to develop, couples will earn money and be able to bring their families out of poverty. This will then give them the ability to develop social status through the goods they possess rather than the number of children they have. This is what Mary Douglas refers to as “oysters and champagne.”

Acquiring status is a major goal of all humans as seen in all social mammals. Whether this status is gained by having a BMW or by having six or seven children depends on the type of society one lives in and the resources that are available. By giving developing countries the opportunity to industrialize and improve their economies, we are not only increasing jobs and decreasing poverty, but also decreasing the fertility rate.

People will have a choice in using some of their resources to acquire goods, leaving a smaller amount for the raising of children. In this way, people may “willingly give up having some babies so that they can afford washing machines and motor cars”.


A major way that economic development can begin is in the formal education of both men and women in impoverished nations. Education in schools will give way to knowledge that can help people improve their cities and villages economically which will lead to a life where children are not needed for status and financial support.

In addition, the education of girls about what large families are doing to the world population and how it can be controlled with contraception will decrease the fertility rate. When women are educated, there is an additional benefit in that they too will want to hold jobs.

When women have jobs, this also leads to less children. In countries where no women are enrolled in secondary education, the average woman has seven children, but where 40 per cent of all women have had a secondary education the average drops to three children. Once again, status can be gained through a means other than the number of children one has, this time by holding a job.

Birth Control

When couples are given the opportunity to see how their large families are affecting resources and the environment around the world, we can begin to solve our problem by increasing the availability of birth control. This is a much more immediate solution, however it will only work if the couples want to use it.

This means that the motivation for having large families must be diminished. If methods of contraception as well as education in terms of family planning are given to men and women in impoverished countries, then the number of children in each family should decrease.

In addition, both education about the population problem and an increase in women in the work force will cause women to wait longer to have children. This can also be helpful because “like smaller families, such delays in first births exert a powerful brake on population momentum by lengthening the time span between generations”

Source: umich.edu  
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Women’s History Magazine

{June 10, 2010}   Who Were the Amazons?

What is known of the actual Amazons within the Aegean is very little, and yet intrigue about a race of dominant warrior women in the bronze age has flourished from ancient times into the present. The obvious question asked by most scholars has been, “who were the Amazons, and did they actually exist?”.

Research into the Amazons is extremely limited and at times contradictory. There are numerous accounts of the origins of the Amazons, most concurring that the black sea region was their original settlement. To what extent the Amazons settled into the Black Sea region has not been fully ascertained. Some sources say they reached as far south as Libya, some to the Anatolia peninsula, others as far west as the Mongolian region of Eurasia.

These accounts are further conflicted by the later Greek accounts of the Amazons. According to the Greek accounts, when the Greeks themselves began to settle into the area of the black sea, they found no Amazons.

As a result and to explain this discrepancy, the myth of Hercules and Hippolyte was created to explain their disappearance. According to the myth, Hercules led an expedition through the Amazon land to obtain the girdle of Queen Hippolyte (the queen of the Amazons), during this time he managed to expel and conquer all the Amazons in the district.

Regardless of the myth, modern and ancient scholars remain perplexed by the question of whether the Amazons existed at all. Plutarch, a Greek historian, concluded that the Amazons did not exist as a race of warrior women per se’, but were merely women fighting alongside men in battle. Herodotus, another Greek historian, believed that the Amazons did exist within Greece.

Other scholars have even ventured that the women were in fact male Persian soldiers who shaved their beards off and dressed as women in battle. These theories and questions have been compounded by the view of Amazons within Greek art. The early depictions of Amazons were similar in style and likeness of Athena, as time progressed Amazons were given the likeness of Artemis. The final depictions of Amazons share slightly Persian features, a likeness (since the Greeks were in constant conflict with Persia) which can be best viewed as anomalous.

Outside of the questions of the Amazon origins, other questions pertaining to Amazons concern their view of men, and if they were a fierce (blood thirsty) people. The Greeks often questioned (as do modern scholars) how the Amazons, a race composed entirely of women, were able to sustain themselves throughout the generations.

The most credible theory holds that the Amazons had contact with men from other lands, the Amazons kept the female children born to them, and sent the male children to live with their fathers. As to the Amazons blood thirsty nature, Quintus Smyrnaeus wrote of them during the Trojan Wars:

“In the pure rapture of triumph the Amazons charged, and with anguished groans and shrieks the Greeks perished, their manhood withered by the women from the fierce and untamed northlands. Like Goddesses amidst earth born heroes the Amazons pursued their reeling foes, dashed them down, cut them apart, and, scoffing, tossed them through the air – till the Greek formations dissolved in consternation.”

The Amazons by and large were a race of fierce warriors, who on numerous occasions laid siege in Attica, and were even a threat to Athens. What is certain is that the Amazons were formidable fighters which the Greeks feared, but as to the Amazons being blood thirsty the question still remains.

Source: mnsu.edu 
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Women’s History Magazine

  • The afflicted person makes a complaint to the Magistrate about a suspected witch. The complaint is sometimes made through a third person.

  • The Magistrate issues a warrant for the arrest of the accused person.

  • The accused person is taken into custody and examained by two or more Magistrates. If, after listening to testimony, the Magistrate believes that the accused person is probably guilty, the accused is sent to jail for possible reexamination and to await trial.

  • The case is presented to the Grand Jury. Depositions relating to the guilt or innocence of the accused are entered into evidence.

  • If the accused is indicted by the Grand Jury, he or she is tried before the Court of Oyer and Terminer. A jury, instructed by the Court, decides the defendant’s guilt.

  • The convicted defendant receives his or her sentence from the Court. In each case at Salem, the convicted defendant was sentenced to be hanged on a specified date.

  • The Sheriff and his deputies carry out the sentence of death on the specified date.

Source:  umkc.edu

{May 17, 2010}   Feminism and Belly Dance

Both feminism and belly dance enjoyed an upsurgence in the early 1970’s, suggesting that there is a community of interest between the two.  When “women’s liberation” was pushing for more job opportunities, more personal freedom, and more sexual freedom for women, belly dance offered freedoms that seemed to exemplify these goals.  

It encouraged self-expression, it freed women from constraint in their physical movement and it encouraged taking center stage – a liberating combination for women who had begun to see the demureness and agreeable blandness expected of them as restrictive and wrong. 

There is no doubt that the dance was liberating to women.  Those of us who taught in the 70’s saw it time and time again: women whose stiff, introverted body language showed lack of confidence were suddenly opening up, shaking their hips, performing, expressing. Going to belly dance class was, for some, a subversive act.  

Teaching in the South in the late 70’s, I knew several of my students lied about where they were going on Tuesday nights. I also knew of several women who danced themselves out of restrictive relationships.  Through belly dance, many women found a way to escape, for the class hour or on a wider scale, from societal bonds that restricted them from power, adventure, exploration of their own sensuality, and claiming a public voice.

Over the past thirty years, Western belly dancers have come to an interpretation of their art that builds on these early liberating self-discoveries.  While many individual philosophies of dance exist, and while there is often heated discussion about them within the community, on the whole dancers take a more or less feminist view of what they are doing.  Most dancers feel that they are dancing for themselves and for a wide audience, rather than to please and seduce men.   

Most dancers, while aware of sometimes unpleasant professional competition, have a sense of sisterhood with other dancers.  Most dancers feel that this dance is particularly feminine, that what it says is said best by women, and that it is a valuable form of self-expression for themselves and for women as a group. Dancers tend to discuss belly dance history in terms of goddess worship and childbirth rituals, though other myths (harems and slave dancers) still dominate the consciousness of non-dancers.  Dancers also tend to embrace archetypes that embody central issues of their own dancing: earth goddess, gypsy dancer, sensual queen, sweet young nymph.   

Through these images, dancers create feeling, move their audiences to new perceptions and ideas, express who they are, and open the door to something deep and powerful in themselves and in their audiences.  Dancers love this ability in themselves and rightly see it as a power, a gift, a voice.  On the whole, dancers’ experience tends to support the notion that this dance is good for women: it is valuable as self-expression, and it is at heart a woman’s dance, reflective of women’s essence, skills, power, sexuality, and spirituality.

Read more: uncw.edu 

Women’s History Magazine

{April 26, 2010}   Woman General Fu Hao

Little is known about the early life of the warrior and commander Fu Hao who lived during the later Shang Dynasty, some 3,200 years ago. Wife of the Shang emperor Wu Ding, all records of her, inscribed in ancient oracle bone scripture, lend historians to believe that she is one who, taking advantage of her position in that still semi-matriarchal slave society, was able to bring her talents fully into play. 

In her day, the emperor Wu Ding pushed the Shang empire to its zenith by extending his realm of power through the cultivation of loyal collaborators. Many local tribes came over and pledged allegiance to him. In good faith Wu Ding married one woman from each such tribe, and Fu Hao was one of those wives. Nonetheless, she has gone down in history not so much as a stateswoman and an outstanding strategist, in her own right…..

It can be seen from ancient historical records that the major functions of the state at that time fell into two categories: to conduct sacrificial and divination ceremonies and to do battle. The records show that Fu Hao played an important part in a series of wars during the reign of Wu Ding.

As the mere size of an army often determined the outcome of a battle, especially when fairly primitive weapons were in use, the Shang regime rulers paid much attention to recruitment, and in keeping with the spirit, Fu Hao drew soldiers form within her own country and from neighboring tribes as well. It is found in the records that Fu Hao led generals and a huge army of ten thousand soldiers in battles. The two big yue, or battle-axes, found in her tomb weighing 9 kilos each, and two smaller ones are bearing the inscription of Fu Hao, are indications of her military authority.

The Shang territories were surrounded by hostile tribes. The Tus inhabited about one thousand li north of the Shang capital and repeatedly violated the Shang borders, seizing men and materials. Shang emperors prior to Wu Ding fought them many times but could not defeat them. History tells us that they were at last forced to surrender by Fu Hao in a single decisive battle, after which they became compliant.

The Yis, to the southeast, were not very strong but sometimes also made incursions into Shang territory. Under Wu Ding’s order, Fu Hao’s troops defeated them easily. Her force also repulsed the attacks of the Qiangs from the northwest. The Bafangs in the southwest were also a belligerent people. Wu Ding made a surprise attack, forcing them to flee right to the hands of Fu Hao’s men who were waiting in ambush.
The Shangs suffered considerably after the death of Fu Hao. The Gongfang to the north took to battle against the shangs, threatening the latter’s very existence. Worried, Wu Ding made repeated appeals and sacrifices to the spirit of Fu Hao in the hope that she would help him defeat the invaders.

Source:  All-China Women’s Federation

Women’s History Magazine

{April 10, 2010}   The History Of The Thong

In modern times, historians trace the thong’s first public appearance to 1939 when New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia directed that the city’s nude exotic dancers to dress more appropriately.

Fashion designer, Rudi Gernreich was credited with the first modern thong back in 1974. The thong was worn for many years by exotic Brazilian dancers and was very widely worn during the festivals. These tight, tiny thongs grew in popularity during the 80s in South America and were used as swimwear at the beaches. Its popularity and influence spread to various parts of the world in the late 90s.

In the US, the sexy thong only gained wide acceptance in the 90s when exotic lingerie came into the mainstream. Today, the thong is one of the best selling styles of undergarment in the world. The size of the lingerie industry is said to be over US$2 billion a year. 

Besides the sexy thong, there are also many different types and variants of exotic lingerie available in the market today. Some of the different types of lingerie available include the chemise, camisole, boy shorts, bustiers, corsets, teddy and G-string.

Many designers today have come up with very flamboyant and creative designs and the thongs today are very different from the designs of yesteryears. It is extremely minimalist, erotic and chic. Many women prefer the thong to other types of lingerie because they can wear tight pants without showing the panty line. Besides being extremely sexy, the thong is also comfortable to wear. 


Women’s History Magazine

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